The WSU Cereal Variety Selection Tool App with Dr. Clark Neely


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For questions or comments, contact Clark Neely via email at

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Episode Transcription:

Drew Lyon: Hello. Welcome to the WSU Wheat Beat podcast. I’m your host, Drew Lyon, and I want to thank you for joining me as we explore the world of small grains production and research at Washington State University. In each episode, I speak with researchers from WSU and the USDA-ARS to provide you with insights into the latest research on wheat and barley production. If you enjoy the WSU Wheat Beat podcast do us a favor and subscribe on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app and leave us a review while you’re there so others can find the show too.

[ Music ]

Drew Lyon: My guest today is Dr. Clark Neely. Clark is an Extension Agronomist and the Lead for the WSU Extension Cereal Variety Testing Program. He came to WSU in 2019 and is based in Pullman with the Crop and Soil Sciences Department. He is originally from South Central Pennsylvania where he grew up on a small family farm. He received degrees from Penn State, University of Idaho, and Texas A&M University. His current research program is built around the variety testing program with funded projects looking at the impact that wheat varieties have on soil microbial recruitment in the rhizosphere and possible wheat varietal impacts on subsequent canola production. Hello, Clark.

Dr. Clark Neely: Hi, Drew.

Drew Lyon: So today our topic of discussion is the cereal variety selection tool. This is a tool that’s kind of near and dear to me because when I came here in 2012 I worked with a predecessor of yours, Dr. Stephen Guy, to develop the tool. But you’ve kind of taken it to the next level and we want to talk about that a little bit. Can you describe for our listeners what the cereal variety testing — or selection tool is and what information does it provide?

Dr. Clark Neely: Sure. Yeah. Yeah, the tool provides information on all the varieties of wheat and barley that we’re currently testing in the variety testing program. It’s mostly composed of release varieties, although based on some feedback I got we started to include, also, advanced breeding material this past year as well. So in order to be on the tool, it has to have at least two years of data and so for my program, we provide a two-year average on yield, test weight, protein, plant height, and heading date. And so those are all two-year averages. Last year, we added another column for a three-year average for yield. And then after that, if you look on the tool, you’ll notice there’s a bunch of ratings, and so we have ratings on emergence, winter survival. In some cases, we have lodging, stripe rust, cephalosporium stripe, straw breaker, snow mold, Hessian fly, end-use quality, and falling number ratings. And then on the spring wheats, we also have aluminum tolerance. So there’s a lot of information, a lot of ratings on there. I get a lot of questions — well, I guess some questions on, like, why is there some missing data on there? If you use the tool, you’ll notice there are, you know, dashes where there’s not any values. And the reason — there’s a couple reasons for that. One is a lot of these are newer varieties so we don’t have information on all of those ratings yet. In a lot of cases, or in some of the cases, we need, like, a minimum of three years of data before we feel comfortable giving it a rating. And so that’s certainly true for some of the ratings. And then, in other cases, you know, not every year is a good year to take ratings. Like, snow mold is a good example. So if we’ve only tested it for two years and we haven’t had snow mold pressure those two years, then we might not have ratings. So just thought listeners might want to know why there’s not data for everything on there.

Drew Lyon: So this tool — your program collects a huge amount of data and this tool allows people to kind of sort through it. Right?

Dr. Clark Neely: Mm-hmm.

Drew Lyon: So you can make selections based on — what sorts of things might a grower want to sort the information on?

Dr. Clark Neely: Sure. Sure. Yeah. Yeah. How do you use the tool? Yeah. So you can — when you get into the — the current version on a desktop computer, you can — you first select the class of wheat you want, whether it’s winter, spring, hard, soft, or if you’re interested in barley that’s on there, too. But you first select your class and then you can select your precipitation zone. And then it will take you to a — a data table and that’s where, when you get into that, then you can start sorting and filtering out based on basically any characteristic you want. So if stripe rust is most important to you, you can sort it by highest rating to lowest rating, or you can say I don’t want to look at anything that has a stripe rust rating lower than a 4 — or, I mean, higher than a 4 because 1 is good. So you can do that and it will eliminate any varieties that don’t meet your criteria. And then you can — on top of that, you can go in and you can sort by other characteristics, too.

Drew Lyon: Okay. And this tool is the most used tool on the small grains website,, and it’s a big table. And so one of the complaints we’ve had is people not being able to read it on their mobile phones. So you’ve — you’ve decided to tackle that issue. Can you tell us a little bit about how you’re doing that?

Dr. Clark Neely: Sure. Yes. We are partnering with a company called Digital Awesome and they are working on a mobile — a mobile-friendly app where we can utilize the tool more effectively on mobile devices. And so it should — there won’t be a whole lot of difference. If you’re familiar using the selection tool on a desktop computer, it should function more or less the same. It will just be easier to read. So you can use the same — I can go into it here in a minute — but you can still sort and filter the same way for whatever characteristics you want to use. The big advantage of the mobile app, in addition to being able to scroll through the table easier, is going to be that it’s going to be accessible offline. So if you have contact to the internet, it will be constantly pinging the website, so we’ll upload the data to the website, and then it will be pulling the data for the app from the website. So if it has access, it will — it will ping it and it will pull it. But then if you don’t have access, it will store that information on the app. So if you’re driving on a tractor and you don’t have any reception and you’ve got autopilot on [laughing], you can scroll through the app. So, yeah, the — the other — part of the one improvement or change that we’ve made to it, I would say, is currently you can only look at varieties and compare varieties within a precipitation zone. We thought it might be useful, particularly for, like, seed dealers or seed companies, if they could compare varieties across precipitation zones, kind of see what kind of footprint a variety might have. And so we’re working on — on that, being able to compare across precipitation zones.

Drew Lyon: Will that be both on the app and the tool? Or just on the app?

Dr. Clark Neely: That will just be on the app.

Drew Lyon: Okay.

Dr. Clark Neely: The way they structured the — the tool when they built it, it’s not possible without, like, completely redoing the whole tool.

Drew Lyon: Okay.

Dr. Clark Neely: At least, that’s what I’m told.

Drew Lyon: [ laughter ] I believe whatever the IT people tell me —

Dr. Clark Neely: Right.

Drew Lyon: — because I don’t know any better.

Dr. Clark Neely:  Yeah.

Drew Lyon: So how do you navigate in the — in the new tool?

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah. So I brought my phone. Just — I figured I could walk through it best that way. So, yeah, as soon as you — you pull up the app on your phone, there will be a place where you can select your wheat class. And then after you select that, you can go on the left. There will be a spot to select your precipitation zone. And then to the right of that, there will be an option to select what data you want to look at. So you can select as — it will pre-populate with everything, but you can select as few or as many columns of data as you want. And then that will automatically populate the table below it. And the nice thing about the app is it’s going to lock the variety column. So the variety column will always be there, but then there will be many, many columns to the right, even though the — on your screen, you’ll only be able to see maybe three or four columns of data, but you can scroll over to the right and back to the left. So it will be easier that way to view the data or — and you can scroll up and down, obviously.

Drew Lyon: Yeah. That was a huge problem with phones using the current tool that’s on the website.

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah.

Drew Lyon: That sounds great.

Dr. Clark Neely: And then, like on the other tool, if you click on one of the varieties, it will pull up a details page and it will — there will be a table that just has all of the information on that specific variety. And then there’s also an option at the top of that page to click on Variety Summary and then that will pull a picture of the variety and kind of a short paragraph summary about it.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So sounds like a very useful tool. And the ability to be out of internet range —

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah.

Drew Lyon: — which happens a lot out there in the countryside —

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah.

Drew Lyon: — and still operate the tool, that’s a great feature as well. So where can you get the tool? Or I guess it’s maybe not quite ready yet, but when it is where can we get the tool?

Dr. Clark Neely: Basically anywhere that you typically get any of your other apps. So any app store, it should be available, and it will be free.

Drew Lyon: And it will run on Apple, Android, all the different —

Dr. Clark Neely: Yes, it’s supposed to be Android and Apple/iPhone friendly.

Drew Lyon: Okay. And do you know what the name of the tool is going to be so we can search for it?

Dr. Clark Neely: It’s just going to be the variety — WSU Variety Selection Tool.

Drew Lyon: Okay. WSU Variety Selection Tool. You can search for that.

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah.

Drew Lyon: Okay. And do you have an estimate of when the tool will be available?

Dr. Clark Neely: I’m optimistically thinking by mid-May.

Drew Lyon: By mid-May.

Dr. Clark Neely: I think.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So maybe even by the time this airs —

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah.

Drew Lyon: — we’ll — we’ll be able to pull that down.

Dr. Clark Neely: I just got the first beta version last week. And so we’ve been troubleshooting — you know, working out all the kinks and stuff, so I’m hoping we’ll have the second round if not this week, then the following week. And then I’d like to send it out to, like, my advisory committee and — and a few folks to kind of give it a test run to see if they see anything that I haven’t seen, or think of any other tweaks we can make to it.

Drew Lyon: Okay. I know, as we watch the analytics on our website,, over the years — we started in 2014 the percentage of visitors coming from a desktop has been slowly shrinking and the percentage of users coming from a mobile device is slowly increasing. So the audience is switching that way, and so I think a mobile app like this should be useful. I — if somebody wants to give you feedback on how the app is working, how do they get ahold of you?

Dr. Clark Neely: Probably email is the best way. It’s just

Drew Lyon: All right, Clark. Thanks for sharing this information. I hope our listeners out there will use the app and give their feedback to you about how they like it and anything they’d like to change, maybe.

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah.

Drew Lyon: Thank you.

Dr. Clark Neely: Thank you, Drew.

[ Music ]

Drew Lyon: Thanks for joining us and listening to the WSU Wheat Beat podcast. If you like what you hear don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app. If you have questions or topics, you’d like to hear on future episodes please email me at drew.lyon — that’s –( You can find us online at and on Facebook and Twitter @WSUSmallGrains. The WSU Wheat Beat podcast is a production of CAHNRS Communications and the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. I’m Drew Lyon, we’ll see you next time.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by guests of this podcast are their own and does not imply Washington State University’s endorsement.